Since the beginning of 2005 several blogs devoted to scent have appeared on the web. I am not an avid reader of these blogs, but it didn’t take take me too long to understand each blogger’s interest and way of smelling things. Interestingly enough, in this small community, there is enough diversity in their opinions to make you believe that the way we smell scent is not as simple as the way flowers appears to our eyes. That is why it’s so difficult to make a good mass fragrance.

There are two things that I don’t like about today’s mass fragrance market – insane number of new launches, and too many celebrity scents. But the whole structure of making commercial scents is driven by shrewd marketing to achieve better sales just like any other businesses. What differs in fragrance business is there are only few major suppliers (or makers), each of which with a small stable of perfumers, to feed the huge appetite of giant cosmetic companies. Anyone with knowledge and passion can make their own scent, but to be a perfumer at one of these major fragrance suppliers is much more difficult than having a solo exhibition in New York City as a visual artist. One needs to have an exceptional olfactory sense, to be able to go through years of rigorous training, and to withstand an enormous amount of pressure from their clients. They are the genuine creators… but with an ironical mission. The perfumers have to make sure the designer, celebrity, or the brand will stand out, not them.

Geared with cutting edge technology, their hands on the best natural and synthetic raw materials, the biggest three fragrance suppliers (Firmenich, Givaudan, and IFF) are intent on recruiting the best noses. They employ these distinguished noses to work almost exclusively for their client’s multimillion dollar projects, which are based on thorough market research and analysis. The perfumers’ outstanding skills and the superb materials are rarely used for small clients. However, this does not imply that individual people’s taste lack importance to a perfumer. The truth is that there are simply not enough trained professionals to cater to any one individual’s taste.

If you have a passion for perfume, what could be more exciting than to have your own perfume created by one of these perfumers at their state-of-art lab using the best materials that only they can have?

So, I asked two very different type of women who both have a deep, boundless passion for perfumes if they were interested to have their own “dream” scents created by very talented perfumers in one of the major suppliers. They were both excited about the idea, and I received their proposals shortly after. Their proposals were interesting and articulate enough for me to choose the ideal perfumer for each proposal. The rest was simple: I handed their proposals to two perfumers who coincidentally worked together on Lovely Sarah Jessica Parker. The way perfumers at these big suppliers work on scents has always been secretively hidden inside their contemporary and modernly outfitted buildings. So I knew these two perfumers were going to be excited by the proposals and the idea to develop a scent openly using a blog.

Marina‘s scent will be composed by Clement Gavarry and Katie‘s scent by Laurent Le Guernec. The two scents will be developed without any deadline or cost restrictions, in other words, there is no commercial goal to achieve for this project and, and none of us know where it will end up. I hope both the “clients” and the perfumers will have unique experiences through the developments, and the visitors to this blog will have a better idea of fragrance development.

Nobi Shioya (a.k.a. Sacré Nobi)
New York, May 2006

Read Katie’s proposal to Laurent for her ideal perfume »
Read Marina’s proposal to Clement for her ideal perfume »